June 13: Role Models and Insurgents

One of the conclusions I seem to be coming to because of this project is this: literature should not be taught in high school at all. Every time I've had to read something which I read in high school, I realize that 1) I totally didn't understand, then, what I was reading, and 2) there was probably no way I could have understood it. Abolishing literature class would have the additional benefit of people learning it on the street -- in the exact way it was produced.

But what to replace it with? My first thought is the study of cookery, and I stand by that, but they could do worse than to read Plutarch. As it says in the Introductory Note, "All classes of people have taken delight in them, from kings to shepherds [two classes of people with country places -- ed.], and it is safe to say that the influence has always been wholesome." (Wholesome! Even fogeys don't use "wholesome" anymore, although "natural" and/or "artisanal" has some of that force.)

Nerds would enjoy it, too, for today we learn that Aristedes was exiled from Athens for being too smart and good:
Moreover, the spirit of the people, now grown high, and confident with their late victory, naturally entertained feelings of dislike to all of more than common fame and reputation. Coming together, therefore, from all parts into the city, they banished Aristides by the ostracism, giving their jealousy of his reputation the name of fear of tyranny. For ostracism was not the punishment of any criminal act, but was speciously said to be the mere depression and humiliation of excessive greatness and power; and was in fact a gentle relief and mitigation of envious feeling.
Aristedes, wholesomely, goes quietly, and presently the Persians invade and, forgetting the wrong he's been done, he goes and helps the Greeks thrown them out. Not without difficulties, though. Because, as so often happens in war, it's hard to find a trustworthy oracle:
In this juncture, Arimnestus, who commanded the Platæans, dreamed that Jupiter, the Saviour, asked him what the Greeks had resolved upon; and that he answered, “To-morrow, my Lord, we march our army to Eleusis, and there give the barbarians battle according to the directions of the oracle of Apollo.” And that the god replied, they were utterly mistaken, for that the places spoken of by the oracle were within the bounds of Platæa, and if they sought there they should find them.
As in our time, it's not the oracle but how the MSM interprets the oracle that's important. (I add that the difficulty in doing this reading is all these Greek names. I might wish for footnotes but in some way it would add to the distraction while not adding understanding.)

And here one might extract a point about our time. The Persians have invaded Greece, and even the disaffected Greeks rally to the home team cause. There's something about foreigners that brings everyone together. We all know that Athens-Sparta was a rivalry as hot as Alabama-Auburn, but, as Alabama and Auburn would come together against the Big Ten, so do Athens and Sparta join up:
Aristides, making this proposal and bringing back the ambassadors into the assembly, charged them to tell the Lacedæmonians [Spartans. It's confusing! -- ed.], that all the treasure on the earth or under it, was of less value with the people of Athens, than the liberty of Greece. And, showing the sun to those who came from Mardonius, “as long as that retains the same course, so long,” said he, “shall the citizens of Athens wage war with the Persians for the country which has been wasted, and the temples that have been profaned and burnt by them.”
It's hard to win on the road, as the Persian Empire, and our own, have learned. And we had Plutarch and they didn't.

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